Burntwood Family History Group
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Burntwood Family History Group
The Horror of Gallipoli
I was born in Hednesford in 1951 to parents Christina Patricia BARNETT and Frederick Charles BETTS. My father was a coal miner, as was my grandfather James Herbert BETTS and my great grandfather James BETTS. My maternal grandfather Thomas BARNETT, his brothers John Thomas BARNETT and Joseph Edward BARNETT were also coal miners as was my great grandfather Thomas BARNETT and great, great grandfather Edward BARNETT.

In 1911, my great uncle Joseph Edward BARNETT aged 29, was still living at home in Hednesford, single and a coal miner hewer. He, like his brothers Thomas and John Thomas were members of the Ancient Order of Foresters at the Cromwell House (Court 5123) Mill Street, Cannock.

In 1914 at the outbreak of war, Field Marshal Horatio Herbert KITCHENER called for volunteers to join the army, to the cry “Your Country Needs You”. In August 1914, within two weeks of his cry, 100,000 men had volunteered and they were known as ‘K1’. From these, the 7th and subsequent Battalions of the South Staffordshire Regiment were formed.

Whether Joseph Edward BARNETT had had enough of working in the coal mines or he wanted to fight for his country, I will never know but he answered KITCHENER’s cry, and enlisted at Hednesford with the 7th Battalion of the South Staffordshire Regiment becoming Private No. 15076. In March 1915 he started his training, first at Grantham and then Frensham.

As part of the war campaign, on 23rd March 1915 British Marines occupied the Greek Island of Lemnos in preparation for a military attack on Gallipoli. Mudros became a considerable British and French camp. With the 6th Lincolns, 6th Border Regiment and 9th Sherwood Foresters, the 7th Battalion of the South Staffordshire Regiment formed the 11th Division (under General HAMMERSLEY) of the 33rd Infantry Brigade and in June they were ordered to Gallipoli.

On 1st July 1915 Joseph Edward with the 7th Battalion under the command of Lieutenant Colonel D.T. SECKHAM left Liverpool docks on the Her Majesties Troopship “Empress of Britain” and sailed for Alexandria. On the 7th July the 7th Battalion arrived in Alexandria, Egypt and on the 16th July left Alexandria and sailed for the Mudros, Lemnos. On the 18th July the 7th Battalion arrived in Mudros. In excess of 750 disembarked as First Reinforcements.

On the 20th July the 7th Battalion transhipped into small boats for Cape Helles, Gallipoli and the following day landed at “V” beach and moved into a Rest Camp. For three days the 7th Battalion were occupied in preparing a Rest Camp of their own.

On the 23rd July the 7th Battalion went into the trenches and at the end of the day received their first casualties. By the end of July there were numerous casualties and the7th Battalion were relieved by the French and rejoined the 11th Division at Imbros, Lemnos. Their relief didn’t last long as on the 1st August, they were then ordered to re-embark to take part in the Suvla Bay Landing. They re-embarked on the ships ‘Osmanieh’ and the ‘Carron’.

On the 4th August the 7th Battalion disembarked at Imbros and at 21.30 on the 6th August they were towed in “beetles” and “picket boats” by destroyers into the Dardanelles onto “B” beach at Suvla Bay, Gallipoli.

On the 6th August, the 7th Battalion re-embarked in 2 lighters and were towed by destroyers and landed on ‘B’ beach, Suvla Bay. Hey were ordered immediately on landing to construct a trench and move in. Only a small party of Turks was seen about 800 yards away from the shore. This party fired, then they ran away.

During the first two weeks in August the 7th Battalion made came under heavy shrapnel fire but made various advancements and took numerous objectives. On the 13th August, the 7th Battalion moved back to the beach. The wounded and sick were transported back to Mudros and some 800 were now in Australian, New Zealand and Canadian hospitals.

On the 18th August, the 7th Battalion were on the move again manning trenches. Two days later, Naval guns began bombarding the Turkish trenches and at the same time the Brigade moved out to support the attack. As they moved forward they were subjected to an exceedingly heavy shellfire and the losses were considerable. In a short time, all the officers of the 7th Battalion were hit with the exception of a Lieutenant and 2nd Lieutenant. About 300 men were killed and wounded.

On the 23rd August, General Hammersley was taken off the peninsular under a state of collapse. The troops were disillusioned and exhausted. Throughout August 45,000 soldiers had fallen. Those still alive were ill and suffering with dysentery. 800 sick troops per day were being shipped back. No reinforcements were ordered. The Turks were suffering too. Fighting stopped for a period and talking and passing gifts was done.

On the 28th August the 7th Battalion again went up to the front line trenches. No active operations were undertaken, all ranks being absolutely exhausted by the heavy fighting, the great heat, diarrhoea, dysentery and the insufficient supply of water. French reinforcements were agreed to be despatched but could not get there until mid November, so the 7th Battalion were given rest. September came and the temperatures began to drop quickly and things then changed.

On the 21st September, the 7th Battalion were on the move again, moving to front line. They suffered another 38 casualties. Exhausted as they were, a tolerably good system of defence trenches was gradually built up and it must be remembered that in practically all parts of the peninsular, except the plain itself, trenches had to be dug out of solid rock, with no other materials but blunted picks and shovels.

In October temperatures were dropping and their circumstances were getting worse. On the 8th October, a great gale blew and they were suffering. The soldier’s fate was being decided in London. By the 22nd November it was decided that Gallipoli was to be evacuated.

On the 25th November the 7th Battalion again took over the front line and there experienced what must be classed as one of the worst storms troops had ever had to face in any of the fighting areas. On the 27th November a blizzard came in with hurricane force winds and snow and sleet: the worst in 40 years. For 24 hours, it was thunderstorms and rain non-stop. As the snow and frost thawed, a torrent of water came down the hillside towards them, carrying drowned Turks. Freezing British and Turks held a truce and forgot the war. They perched on parapets together to avoid drowning. Sentries were found one morning, standing, frozen to death, with their guns in their hands. Between the 26th and 28th November there were heavy frosts and over 20,000 were either evacuated sick or died on the peninsula

On the 29th November, the gales died down and the following day it was quite calm and fighting begun again. It was on this day 30th November that Joseph Edward already suffering dysentery, frostbite and jaundice, sustained a wound. With many others, he was taken back to Lemnos, to a hospital in Mudros. Hospital staff fought overnight to save his life but the following day the 1st December 1915 he died. He was buried in East Mudros Military Cemetery, Lemnos, Greece.

Gallipoli was eventually evacuated and Joseph Edward was one of 251,000 soldiers who ’fell in Gallipoli’ and never returned home.

Joseph Edward BARNETT was awarded the 1914-15 Star Medal, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal These medals were given to his parents together with a “Death Penny”, a “Death Scroll” and a “Death Letter”. He is commemorated on the War Memorial, Hednesford and on a memorial plaque on the wall of the “Ancient Order of Foresters’ Cannock, facing into the grounds of Saint Luke’s Churchyard.

On the 26th May 2010, I went to The National Archives at Kew looking for Joseph Edward’s WWI Service Record. They were not to be found. They had been destroyed during the bombing of London during WWII

On the 27th June 2010, I went to Lemnos and visited Joseph Edward’s resting place in East Mudros Military Cemetery, grave reference number Plot III, Row D, Grave 111. and paid my respects. The cemetery is one kilometre north east of Mudros next to the Greek Civil Cemetery on the road to Kaminia. There are 885 Commonwealth burials of the 1914 – 1918 commemorated there.

Joseph Edward only served nine months in the army before he met his death. He left the mines to fight for his country. I wonder if he knew that he was going to fight in gales, rain, sleet, snow and freezing conditions, get wounded and ultimately give his life, if he would have stayed down the mines with his father and brothers.

I have only two ancestors who fought in the first word war and both lost their lives. Joseph Edward BARNETT was one. His sister Gertrude Ann BARNETT married George Michael BALL. He was the other. He was killed on the 28th March 1918 in Arras and buried at Bienvillers Military Cemetery, Pas De Calais, France. In October 2005, I went to Bienvillers and visited his grave and paid my respects, and that’s another story.
© Alan Betts 2010